Sunday afternoon, 1958.
Between Life with the Lyons and Sing Something Simple on the Home Service, my father is in the kitchen making his special treacle toffee. Clattering and tut-tutting, he lays out everything with military precision on the daffodil yellow Formica table. In crisp blue and white striped apron, he looks like a butcher but without the blood splatters.
I am dancing around on tippy toes trying to see over my sisters’ heads. Dad stirs the large battered jam pan of fiercely boiling sugar mixture. Sweet heaven of caramel scent! We watch it roar and spit like some angry monster until it’s ready to test. A teaspoonful dropped into a cup of cold water turns into golden teardrops.
Time to pour the hardening mass into the metal tray lined with buttered greaseproof paper. It spreads like hot tarmac across a road. After it cools down a little, Dad marks it into squares with a knife.
At last it sets. My father taps the tin and tips out the block of toffee. He whacks it with a Blue Bird toffee hammer and puts the precious sweet shards into a glass jar. With a spoonful of sugar added, Dad shakes it like a cocktail barman. We lick our fingers and dab up the tiny crystal gems from the surface of the table.
My sisters and I guard the jar as it sits on a shelf in the pantry, regularly peeping in to check its progress.
Hilarious laughter from What’s My Line? does not drown out the squeak of the stopper loosening in the jar. My father dips his fingers into the jar and daintily draws out a piece of toffee. ‘It’s always better after a few days. More chewy,’ Dad says, cracking his teeth. I don’t care if it’s not chewy. He takes out another piece before passing it on. I wait and wait until the jar comes my way. Will there be any left for me?